Thursday, March 23, 2017

World Bank: Water will become the most sought-after natural resource

Already, 1 in 9 people worldwide do not have access to safe, clean drinking water.

A report released by the UNICEF yesterday says that approximately 1 in 4 children worldwide will live in regions with extremely scarce water resource by 2040.

Based on current trends, studies indicate that demand for water will increase 50% by the year 2030 - for industry, energy, farming and to quench the thirsts of additional one billion people.

According to the World Bank, water will become the most sought-after natural resource over which wars are bound to be fought.

The 2017 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report, entitled "Wastewater: The Untapped Resource" says;

"Noteworthy is that about 50 per cent of the people facing this level of water scarcity live in China and India".

 If all these seem bleak and foreboding, consider this:


It is clear beyond doubt that WATER is going to be the most critical natural resource of the future. We need to do everything we can to protect and safeguard it, for our own future and for those of our children.

The as yet unshackled Chamkharchhu flowing through the Jakar valley. The government has recently announced that this beautiful river too will be subjected to hydro-power bondage.

We have to stop looking at our rivers only as energy source for driving hydro-power turbines. Our rivers are obviously destined for great things in the future. Water in its natural form could one day represent the single largest revenue generator for our country.

But first, we have to stop pawning off our rivers as collaterals for hydro-power projects. It is insane to do so. It is already very clear where our hydro-power projects are leading us. We all know how it works – when we cannot repay the loan, the collateral gets seized. You lose control over it.

We need to be realistic and educated. We are working on the assumption that India is an infinite market for our electricity. We are so wrong! India is already almost self sufficient in electricity. Take a look at the following to understand how India is making progress in generation of electricity.

Mr. John H. Gerstle, C.E., MNIF, a consultant who worked on our “Development of Guidelines for Hydropower Planning and Impact Assessment”, in the 90’s wrote to me as follows:

In my work with RGOB, I strongly encouraged the early determination of those rivers and river basins to be designated for hydropower development, and those to be preserved for environmental, social, cultural, tourism, recreational and other objectives.

Similarly, it was recommended that hydropower development be concentrated in a small number of river basins, to limit the extent of the impacts and the expense of new infrastructure development required for projects far away from each other. It was expected that such a concentration of hydropower development along some rivers would enable other rivers to be conserved and protected.

These recommendations were made in the reports of the first Bhutan Hydropower System Master Plan so that the consideration could be done at an early stage, before significant investments and commitments would make such decisions more difficult.

There is much wisdom here. We cannot subject all of our rivers to eternal bondage - let us leave one or two of them free of hydro-power dams. We are not making any money from our hydro-power projects - so the question to ask would be:

How much more debt do we need?

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